‘Monk': Here’s What Happened

Warning: This post contains spoilers.

It seemed a little shabby, shuffling off the stage on a random Friday night in the television doldrums of December. But that was fitting for “Monk,” an unpretentious but consistently entertaining show with a wide influence. The spiritual heir of “Murder She Wrote,” it came along in 2002 at a time when cozy, domesticated crime shows with a comic touch were practically nonexistent; eight seasons later, as it leaves, both broadcast and cable schedules are full of them. It also walks away with a tally of 16 Emmy nominations and seven Emmys, including three for Tony Shalhoub as lead actor in a comedy.

We knew from the first episode of the show that the finale would involve solving the murder of Adrian Monk’s wife, Trudy, and Friday night’s 125th episode got that out of the way well before the closing credits. The answer had been obvious to us, if not to Monk or the San Francisco police, in last week’s show, when it was easy to see that the judge played by Craig T. Nelson was the man admitting Trudy’s murder, and ordering Monk’s, on the telephone. (And if you remembered the Season 6 finale, in which papers were found implicating someone named “the Judge” in Trudy’s death, then you knew the score as soon as Mr. Nelson’s character showed up.)

The entire handling of the Trudy mystery over the two-week finale, with Monk poisoned, “D.O.A.”-style, and his assistant, Natalie, moping by his side, felt forced and anticlimactic — as if it were an annoying necessity that had to be dealt with. And it ignored important parts of the Trudy mythology that the show had built up. Would it have been too much trouble to bring back Dale the Whale, the jailed financier who had been Monk’s main link to the case over the years?

One reason for the rush, as it turned out, was that the show needed time to introduce a new character: Trudy’s daughter, Molly, the love child she had with the judge 26 years before. She was there for closure — to give Monk a Trudy surrogate after all those years alone (don’t think too hard about that) — and to show us that yes, the demons are subsiding and he can connect with someone now. Of course we were also reassured that the endearing obsessive-compulsive quirks, like taking 600 pictures of Molly in two days, were still there.

It was predictable that a “Monk” finale might fall short of expectations, given that the producers would feel compelled to break with the formula that defined the show over the preceding 123 episodes. It would have been interesting, actually, to see what they could have done if they had treated the last episode like any other: Monk raises his finger, says “Here’s what happened,” and walks away, no muss, no fuss.

But it’s hard to argue with the notion that show’s fans needed more, and that the cast deserved a little something extra. In a sweet closing montage, we got a peek into the near future: Randy (Jason-Gray Stanford) settling into his new job as police chief of Summit, N.J.; Leland (Ted Levine) bussing his new wife, T.K. (Virginia Madsen); and Natalie (Traylor Howard) and the newly confident Monk (Mr. Shalhoub) heading off to solve a murder. Everything neatly wrapped up — just like Monk folding his laundry.

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This was a phenomenal finale to one of the best shows on television.

(The Randy Newman song (“When I’m Gone”) in the final montage was incredible, too.)

“The entire handling of the Trudy mystery over the two-week finale, with Monk poisoned, “D.O.A.”-style, and his assistant, Natalie, moping by his side, felt forced and anticlimactic — as if it were an annoying necessity that had to be dealt with.”

Sorry but that was dramatic, Monk thought that he was going to die and his friends were there for him.

Sorry for your negative view but i loved the finale, it was probably one of the best series finales i have ever seen.

Great ending to a great show.

joseph d di lella, ph.d. December 5, 2009 · 3:53 pm

True – Monk may have shuffled off on a random Friday night in December without too much fanfare, but for ardent viewers the closure of Trudy’s death and the surrogate daughter/wife connection made the final episode one to behold . . .

In my house, where we have a bunch of Monk fans (and brought a guest Monk fan over to see the finale), we liked it. A lot. We were touched and happy. Maybe we’re an easy audience.

did anyone else wonder why at the end there was a pillow in Leland’s home that said ‘Leland [heart] trudy? am i crazy; did I really see that?

Really, no show’s final episode will ever match the Newhart one, when Bob wakes up next to Emily (Suzanne Pleshette) in the bedroom set from the old Bob Newhart Show and it turns out the whole series has been a dream. But the Monk finale was okay. I look forward to Tony Shalhoub’s next project, and won’t be surprised if it’s something with Willie Nelson.

There was absolutely no good reason to end this sweet little show.
It had a short season.
Tony Shaloub could have done anything else he wanted during the hiatus.
I don’t even like mysteries.
It was a throwback to a time TV did not have to depend upon swearing and double entendres to get a smile and a laugh. In other words, when there was some creativity and character going on, with a great ensemble cast .
This was different and I will miss it.

I didn’t see that final episode but somehow the spoiler here didn’t bother me. I’ve watched this series avidly for years, until this season when, to me anyway, it seemed to fall flat. I look for reruns from past seasons now.

I thought that last night’s show was perfect. I am delighted that Sharona was mentioned and that Monk has a daughter to love. I love all the characters past and present and look forward to see the ensemble return in a movie or a two part show, or come back periodically. Cleverly acted and written. Thank you for the Memories Each and Every one of YOU!!!!!!

“Monk” has always been close to my heart. It is so rare to see (on television or real life!) the kind of relationship Monk had with his wife Trudy. I’m glad he was able to find some kind of closure and will miss the show very much!! It was my tv version of comfort food on many a Friday night through the past eight seasons.

Thanks for blogging about this wonderful program!:)

I have watched and loved Monk since the first episode and I waited with anticipation for the final episode. My wait was worth it — I though that it was great. Just what I would have expected.

Adrian Monk’s whole persona could not have been captured better than the scene iwhere the doctor was telling him what would happen to him – vomiting, then death – and all Monk could focus on was the vomiting.

It was just perfect.

I think it was great,I hope theres reunion shows and I love the monk books they are great to have now the shows over.Lee keeping writing the books please.

“an unpretentious but consistently entertaining show …”

Which is to say, grammatically, that ordinarily only pretentious shows are consistently entertaining.

I can certainly see how some viewers might have been disappointed by the finale’s departure from the mystery format. But I don’t think the writers ever intended to make the series finale akin to the thrilling conclusion to the sixth season. This was about giving closure – giving a great emotional send off to these characters. And this is much wiser than simply solving the Trudy mystery. Fans care more about Monk than about the mysteries, even Trudy’s mystery. While this was primarily a detective show, it was also a character show. We got to watch a damaged character slowly reconnect with the world. That has always been the deeper theme of the Monk series, and that is what was resolved in the finale. Monk got it all – an answer, family and friends, and love. The finale might have been cliched, but it was by no means underwhelming. And so, eight seasons later, case closed. Bravo Monk, you will be missed.

Lauren – Leeyan’s wife is also named Trudy, He founds out earlier in the season when he meets her and he tells her to keep going by the initials TK (or TJ?) so as not to remind Monk.

i have to disagree with the reviewer: i loved this series finale. throughout all the humor of monk’s neurosis, it is still quite evident that he is so troubled. i felt that the writers addressed it more seriously by bringing him happiness in the end.

additionally, while it was sad to see the show end, i feel like the creators made a good call: instead of letting the show drag on they chose to end it once they ran out of interesting plot lines. better let it end on a good note than fade away.

poster #7 is right, the show captivated me as well, even with its safe humor. i think for writers and actors to do that, that is true talent and it is no wonder mr. shaloub has won so many awards.

I don’t care whether you liked the finale or not, I am a huge Monk fan and i looked forward to every episode. I love that quirky character; was one of the best ever.

Leland’s new wife’s name is Trudy; at the beginning of the recent episode where he remarried, Leland asked Monk if he was upset with the coincidence. Monk’s reply, “No, everyone should have a Trudy in his life.”

Love Monk. Loved the finale.

Lauren, Leland’s wife is named Trudy (she went by TK when they met). Leland was worried about the name coincidence, but Monk told him “everyone needs a Trudy in their life.”

TK’s real name is Trudy.

Lauren#5, Leland’s new fiance is named Trudy, you must have missed the episode maybe 2 weeks ago when he met her, and then he was calling her TK so as not to offend Monk that his one-and-only was named Trudy too.

I too loved the last show and am sorry that it’s over.
I’m hoping for a reunion movie in a few years where Monk travels to Summit NJ with the crew to help Randy solve a murder that Sharona is falsely accused of.

By the way Lauren, Leyland’s wife’s name is also Trudy.

I loved the finale. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.
I am glad that Monk has someone to love and grow with.
A bit of Trudy………..
I noticed he was wearing a different kind of shirt at the end as he went to work with Natalie. Nice touch that let us know that he is moving on.
I will miss Monk on my Friday nights. It was a gem……..

By the way Lauren. Leland has a pillow with the name Trudy on it, because TK’s real name is TRUDY.

In response to Lauren’s question: The pillow reads “Leland & Trudy” because Leland’s new wife – who goes by her initials, T.K. – is actually named Trudy.

i was happy to see monk off to work at the episodes end in a crew neck shirt.